The Dynamos were sluggish in the first half of the season but are now starting to find the right balance at the business end of the campaign…
Delhi Dynamos FC have taken the Indian Super League by storm this year. The Gianluca Zambrotta led side has looked a different team altogether this season. Playing at an unparalleled pace and intensity, Dynamos have caught almost all teams on the wrong foot with their attacking intent and valor.
It was a Friday evening when the Lions finally stamped their authority on the league. Hosting Kerala Blasters FC at home, Delhi Dynamos started the game in a controlled manner, Marcos Tebar, yet again, controlling proceedings like he always does. Delhi scored two second half goals with consummate ease to go to the top of the table at the time and it wasn’t a fluke. The side deserves to be right in the thick of the playoffs mix.
Winning the last two games 2-0 against FC Goa and Kerala Blasters, the team looks to be back on track with brilliant performances both home and away. Marcelinho, who played as an impact substitute against FC Goa, dominated the attack against Blasters and deserved the goal, his second in two matches.
Playing a disciplined defensive and aggressive attacking game, Delhi have all their bases covered well. There are reasons to believe that this team is one of the best in the league this season, if not the best. Here, we take a look at the various reasons that have made the Lions tick this season.
The journey to the semi-finals last season
Winning is a habit, best felt when repeated. That is what has happened with the players Delhi Dynamos have retained from last season. While Antonio Doblas is one of the finest goalkeepers in the league, Indian players like Anas Edathodika and Shouvik Chakroborty have time and again showed why they have been retained. The players reached the semis in a stop-start campaign last season and are itching for higher glory, easily evident from their confident performances.
The revival of the team has been masterminded by the coach and his cohesive training for sure, but the dedication has to be appreciated. The players have fought on the pitch every game and have looked to give it all.
The introduction of Gianluca Zambrotta
Gianluca Zambrotta has been the defining factor for the Delhi Dynamos this season. The team has played a never-seen-before tactical game and has been comfortably dominating oppositions throughout.
Zambrotta is a silent, well-behaved man. Since his playing days, the Italian was known to be very effective on the pitch and non-controversial off it. The gaffer has shown exactly these characteristics, not only in his behavior, but also in his team’s mentality. No player has picked out a fight in the eight matches the team has played and has shown refreshing professionalism.
Coming to tactical changes, Zambrotta has instilled an attractive style of play that few managers are willing to utilize in today’s football. Delhi Dynamos are playing with a confidence with the ball at their feet. Their link-up play in the attacking third has seen them have 47 attempts on target, scoring 12 goals the most in the league.
Zambrotta has three central defenders who can boast of being the calmest and the best ball-playing defenders in the league. The troika of Ruben Gonzalez, Edathodika and Chinglesana Singh have all impressed in the central defensive roles and have been one of major reasons for Delhi’s confident game-play with the ball. Zambrotta being a defender has certainly helped these players form a solid partnership.
While every team can boast of cohesive teamwork in training, showing that on the pitch has not been easy for various teams. Teams like FC Pune City and FC Goa can blame their strikers for being absent, but credit must be given to hardworking forwards like Emiliano Alfaro and Richard Gadze who track back and even come deep to get the ball on occasion, whilst also driving the team forward in the final third at other times
For Delhi, two players who have been heavily underrated are Gadze and Milan Singh. The Gjhanian has, more often than not, started the game for the Lions and has played a part in all their attacks. Tireless and hard-working, Gadze has the coach’s belief because he has not been ashamed to run at lost causes, pressurizing defenses and creating chances.
This is exactly what happened for the first goal against Kerala Blasters. Closing down what should have been an easy clearance for Sandip Nandy, the striker forced the goalkeeper into a mistake and assisted for Kean Lewis, who dribbled a defender en route to his goal. The frontman can be accused of trying too hard at times and not being very good at finishing, but such things which include game intelligence improve by playing more and this is exactly what Zambrotta has done; played his main threat up ahead regularly.
In the defensive zone, Marcos Tebar and Memo, both playing as deep-lying playmakers, have always contributed in the defensive duties, supporting the team well in times of need. The team has played a different brand of pressing football, with Florent Malouda and Milan Singh starting the dirty work in the opposition half.
Gianluca Zambrotta has transformed the team into a well-oiled machine, breaking opposition attacks with ease and creating chances from the wings.
Usually playing a 4-3-3, the Lions have almost made Florent Malouda and Milan Singh their first line of defence, which starts in the opposition half. Giving comfort to Marcos Tebar, a wonderful player capable of operating in tight spaces, Malouda and Milan have broken opposition attacks at source, the deep-lying playmaking zone. Milan, in particular, has been an articulate student of whatever Zambrotta has said and has almost perfectly provided that incisive defending in the opposition half of the pitch, helping Delhi create more chances with ease.
Richard Gadze, Marcelinho and Kean Lewis are all tireless runners who always keep the central defenders and the full-backs under pressure. Thus, most teams are choked with tireless pressing and most attacks are killed even before the ball goes into the opposition half. Malouda, with his astute presence in the middle, gives both the physical qualities needed for breaking the supply and provides the attacking fluidity with his ball-playing skills.
The whole team is well-oiled and has clarity in mind as to what is to be done on the pitch. The players are at the same mental level as the coach and this has surely been made possible by an almost perfect pre-season. The team, thus, has conceded mostly due to momentary errors from individuals and have had strong games defending.
Coming to the attacking tactics, Kean Lewis is no Neymar, but he’s a skilled player who knows how to beat an opponent. Known to cut in and cross with his right foot or even take shots on goal, Lewis has been a vital cog in the team who beat Chennaiyin FC 1-3 in their first game.
Gadze is crucial in this system. Zambrotta wants to make sure every opposition centre-back is kept on their toes, which makes them vulnerable and error-prone. Gadze provides this fluidity to his coach. Running at defenders with equal intensity with and without the ball, the striker has scored two goals and has been one of the most hard-working players on the pitch for the Lions.
Coming to the third cog in the troika of Delhi’s attack, Marcelinho has been nothing short of magical. The stadium rouses whenever the Brazilian has the ball at his feet. Currently the joint highest scorer in the league with Alfaro, Marcelinho can beat players, run behind defenders and find that killer pass, all with brilliant perfection. The Brazilian has been the main attacking threat for the Lions, playing in a similar position as Lionel Messi, as an inverted forward and using his powerful left foot to the hilt.
Marcos Tebar, here, plays the role of a Sergio Busquets. Sitting deep behind the cover provided by Malouda and Milan, Tebar controls the speed of the game at his will. The player passes the ball to whoever and when he wants.
With the constant shuffling of his players, Zambrotta ensures that no one complains of burn-out and match fatigue. If the team continues in this fashion, there’s no denying that a semi-final or a Final spot is easily achievable. Complacency and finishing off chances should be the only worry for the Italian manager, who has been one of the main reasons for this brilliant turn-around for a team known for its mid-table like performances in the first two seasons of the ISL.
Editorial by Punit Tripathi Khel Now Correspondent from Delhi – A sports enthusiast. Freelance writer on football and cricket. A die-hard Manchester United follower. You can Follow him on twitter .